Premarital Agreement Checklist
There are many details to think about when you’re planning your wedding and a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) is one item that shouldn’t be left to the last minute. This list includes issues to consider before you speak to your fiancé and your lawyer regarding a premarital agreement. Many of these issues can be addressed directly within a premarital agreement, and it’s good to know where you stand on them prior to starting the conversation.
- Make an exhaustive list of the assets and debts that are currently in your name. It’s generally required for your prenuptial agreement and it’s also good practice to be up-front and straightforward about financial issues with your new marital partner.
- Consider how you want to handle premarital assets and debts in the event of a divorce. Will the assets and debts remain separate property? Or will your separate property be intermingled with your marital property? What if one person’s premarital property is used to pay off the other person’s premarital debts (e.g., school loans)? What if you use premarital property to buy a home that the two of you will own together?
- How will you handle the income and assets you accumulate together? Will they be joint and 50/50? Will you use another arrangement? These things can be addressed within the premarital agreement.
- Think about each person’s financial personality profile and style. Are you a saver or a spender? Do you have similar money styles with respect to both debt and income?
- Who will make the financial decisions and handle the checkbook? Will you do it together or will one person be the primary financial manager? What about large expenditures? Does your spouse need to ask you before buying that smart TV or designer gown? How will the household bills get paid and whose responsibility is it to pay them? Will you have joint bank accounts, separate bank accounts or both?
- What are your long-term financial goals such as retirement and legacy planning? Are your goals aligned? If not, how might you work together to achieve your different goals?
- Make a list of any debts owed. How do each of you feel about debt? Do either of you have credit issues? Now might be a good time to have a serious talk about credit scores and priorities with respect to paying off old debt or accumulating new debt.
- Make a budget. What type of income do each of you anticipate? Do you anticipate this number changing significantly? If so, when? What are your expenses? Do you anticipate this number changing once married? Who will be responsible for what expenses?
- How do you feel about spousal support? Will there be any limitations on the amount, terms, and duration of support? Do you want to make terms about spousal support or alimony that are different than what your state law allows? If one of you owes spousal support or child support from a previous marriage, how will those payments be made? Keep in mind that within your premarital agreement you can’t predetermine any financial obligations regarding shared children, including child support.
- What are your views on nonmonetary contributions, like raising children or managing the household? Most states recognize these types of contributions during a marriage, but you should share your attitude and understand your fiancé’s attitude about these types of roles in a marriage.
- Be clear on your attitudes and opinions regarding paying taxes. Will you file separate or joint taxes? Does either partner have questionable tax deductions or a lighthearted attitude toward filing taxes at all? Does that worry the other partner? Is there old tax debt? If so, who will be responsible for that debt?
- It’s up to you and your spouse to decide how long a premarital agreement should remain in effect. Will the agreement stand forever or will it expire at some point? Would the agreement ever be renegotiated? If you separate, does it matter who chooses to end the marriage? Does it matter why?
- Consider the impact of a marriage with regard to current and future business endeavors. What if one of you works for the other person in a premarital business? What if a premarital business starts a subsidiary or one of you start a new business after the marriage? Would your prenuptial agreement include an indemnification on the business debts and taxes—business, personal, back taxes and payroll taxes?
- Understand how you and your fiancé feel about fault. Fault can be defined as who’s to blame for the divorce. Fault can be evidenced by an affair, drug or alcohol abuse and many other things. However, most state laws give little weight to fault in dividing property or awarding spousal support in a divorce situation. Would it make a difference to you in your property settlement or spousal support if you felt one person contributed more to the breakdown of the marriage than the other person?
- Develop a comprehensive estate plan as soon as possible once married. Do either of you have children already or people who would inherit from you? Who will you name as beneficiary on your life insurance, retirement plans, IRAs and survivor annuity benefits on pension plans? Would your prenuptial agreement end on death? Will the surviving spouse be able to support the same lifestyle in the event of your death? Are there certain family heirlooms or money which you’d like to make sure go to your family or your spouse’s? What would happen if one of you became incapacitated or disabled? Does your marital status matter when one of you dies, for example, whether you’re happily married or separated (even if you haven’t filed for divorce)?
These are just some of the issues that should be addressed in a premarital agreement. The phrase “Early and Often” are words that are often applied to effective communication and they’re particularly relevant in the context of premarital agreements. Use this checklist as tool to understand yourself, your spouse and your expectations more clearly as you develop a successful premarital agreement.
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